Poland's governing conservatives tabled a bill in parliament on Thursday that would subjugate the Supreme Court to executive power, in a move the liberal opposition slammed as "the announcement of a coup".
The ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party set its sights on the Supreme Court, which supervises lower courts, after already passing a slew of reforms of the Constitutional Court, whose main role is to check that laws are compliant with the constitution.
The proposed bill, published in the early hours of Thursday, stipulates that the current Supreme Court judges will be forced to retire, with the exception of those indicated by the justice minister, who would also be responsible for selecting candidates to succeed the retired judges.
The bill adds that if the chief justice of the Supreme Court retires, "his duties and powers will be passed on to the court justice designated by the justice minister."
Grzegorz Schetyna, the head of the main opposition party Civic Platform (PO), immediately denounced the tabling of the bill as an "announcement of a coup".
Supreme Court chief justice Malgorzata Gersdorf, who has been critical of prior judicial measures introduced by PiS, on Thursday said the bill would transform the organ into a "court attached to the justice ministry".
She told reporters that the bill now before the PiS-controlled parliament would make the court "heavily dependent on the executive power, which is very inappropriate".
The PiS has already run afoul of the European Commission and critics at home for implementing reforms of the Constitutional Court that include changing the order in which cases are heard and how the chief justice is chosen.
Critics also cite other PiS bids to consolidate power including moves to increase state control over public broadcasters.